Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Power

By May Vokaty

When I was a kid we had a painting on our kitchen wall that said,

“Please try our famous peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

Suffice it to say, my brother and I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly growing up. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining. To this day the taste of peanut butter around noon is enough to turn my day from terrible to terrific.

I’m constantly amazed; now that I’m an adult (sort of) that people think peanut butter is unhealthy.                     

“Stay away from peanut butter! It’s fattening! It causes heart disease!”  Is a familiar tune? “I limit peanut butter to once a week because it’s so calorie dense.”

Let’s just stop the nonsense. Unlike artificial sources of protein like protein powders and unlike processed proteins like protein bars, peanut butter is one of the best and most natural sports foods available.  It’s also one of the most inexpensive.

Peanut butter is satiating and tastes mighty good. You’ll never win the war on hunger; you’ve got to feed yourself. You might as well choose high quality calories that leave you feeling satisfied for hours. Peanut butter fits the bill nicely.

Peanut butter contains fiber and is a reasonable source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. While peanut butter alone is a poor choice for carbohydrates needed for muscle fuel, thankfully it pairs nicely with a banana or toast or even crackers.

What’s not to love about peanut butter? Well, the preservatives and excess sugar found in manufactured peanut butter. Or the weird layer of oil that lies atop most “natural” peanut butters. And if you prefer almond butter, you’d better be ready to shell out some bucks.

Could my favorite childhood lunch be made at home with fewer processed ingredients and less sugar? Could I perfect nut butter that is delicious, nutritious and reasonably priced? As it turns out, it can be done.

Roasted peanuts, salt and a little confectioners sugar worked with a food processer produce a winner winner peanut butter dinner!

To start, make sure your food processer has a decent motor.  Turning peanuts into peanut butter takes a little time.

The Ninja Blender  is perfect to make your own peanut butter

Use 1 pound of green peanuts, sometimes labeled as blanched.  You want peanuts that haven’t been roasted. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the raw peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. You will want to experiment with levels of roastiness to find your favorite. I prefer a dark roasted peanut butter with a pinch of cayenne pepper. You may prefer a lighter roast with some cocoa powder.

When the peanut have been cooked and cooled to room temperature, place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add  1 teaspoon of salt. Process on high for 5 minutes; yes, you read that right. Sit back and relax; let the machine do the work. After a few minutes you may begin to doubt that the peanut butter crumbs will ever turn into smooth creamy butter, but be patient. Eventually the processors blade begins to draw out the oil in the nuts and you’ll feel better. Continue processing until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Now, for the add-ins. Stir in 1 cup (or even less if you prefer) of powdered sugar and 1/3 cup of cocoa powder. Process for 3 more minutes and you have chocolate peanut butter.

Add ½ to 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper and no sugar for Cajun peanut butter. There are no words to describe this wonderful potion.

Almond butter is another variation. Choose blanched almonds with the skin removed.  Roast at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until light brown; process in the food processor just like the peanut butter.  1 teaspoon of cinnamon is delightful in almond butter.

A word of caution, make sure the roasted nuts are at least room temperature before processing. And don’t try to sweeten the nut butter with honey, stick with powdered sugar. For some reason, honey makes the nut butter stiff and unspreadable.

With a little planning you can produce peanut butter that is fresher, tastier and all around better than store bought peanut butter. Be sure to look for videos to explain the process in more detail.


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